Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:19 pm on 2nd June 2020.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Labour, Pontypridd 7:19 pm, 2nd June 2020

Diolch, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me, and it is a pleasure to follow Martin Vickers on a topic that I know elicits strong feelings on both sides of the House.

Colleagues will be aware that I have only recently become a Member of this place—although it feels like much longer—and since the election the coronavirus pandemic has rightly been at the forefront for us all. As I continue to receive hundreds of emails every day—some relating to coronavirus, some on local issues, many on the movements of a certain special adviser—I am reminded of just how important it is that the voices across the UK are fairly represented in this place.

I echo the comments of my hon. Friend Christian Matheson in welcoming the Government’s decision to agree to the Opposition calls to scrap the plans to reduce the number of MPs to 600. I will be voting on the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. It is clear that the current proposals will see a reduction in representation in Welsh constituencies. The Government claim that the people of all four nations in the UK will have equal representation in Parliament, but I disagree, and the situation in Wales is murky to say the least.

In Wales, the proposals are likely to see a reduction to about 31 seats, with many of Wales’s losses being added to England’s total. The Electoral Reform Society Cymru has been critical of the proposals, and I share its concerns that a cut in the number of Welsh MPs puts additional pressure on the already overstretched Senedd. The Senedd has faced a decade of cuts, thanks to this Tory UK Government and the coalition that came before.

It is also clear that the Barnett consequential funding formula for devolved nations such as Wales is hugely outdated and leaves Wales without its fair share. I genuinely struggle to see how Members representing seats in Wales on the Benches opposite me here can actively support and encourage a Bill that will weaken Wales’s voice in this Chamber. From a Conservative party that places so much focus on defending the Union, I am disappointed and dismayed to see Wales’s voice undermined in the Bill.

On a logistical point, a cut in representation will have a real impact on the work that MPs and their staff can take on. Tory social security cuts over the past decade, coupled with a cut in the number of representatives for Wales, will only further stretch the ability of MPs to assist constituents with pressing casework issues, including welfare support and immigration matters. A cut in the number of representatives will put pressure on many of our caseworkers, who are already overstretched.

As an MP proud to be representing my home town, I stand in this place today as a proud Unionist. The Welsh Labour Government have made excellent advances on devolved issues and protecting our close relationship with the whole of the Union across the UK. The various responses to the coronavirus crisis offer a key example of the divergence that our devolved nations can take on a particular issue. I am sure that Welsh colleagues on both sides of the House will agree that a reduction in parliamentary constituencies in the devolved nations and an increase in seats in England will only put further strain on the integrity of the Union. It is crucial, essentially and especially given our recent departure from the EU, that our democracy continues to effectively represent the Union that still exists across the UK. I am clear that Wales’s voice should not be left behind here in Westminster.